I found myself exploring the deep dark corners of my kitchen not too long ago, and whenever I surfaced with anything I knew I would never use in food preparation/cooking/serving/storing because it was too old or too ugly, the next question I would ask (after "Is this too old or too ugly?") was "Can I use it in the studio?" The question was especially apt when I happened upon a Ziploc bag full of little glass jars and bottles - former containers for honey samples that now seemed useful for homemade dyes or leftover paint. And I found so much more useful stuff! Old kitchen objects can definitely find a second life in the studio. I thought this month's column would be a A-Z compilation of some
of the possibilities.
I'm talking about the kind used in rolling sushi and that often are available for a couple of dollars (or even less) from the right store! If you've got one of these, whether it's used the end of its kitchen life or no, you'll find it easy to figure out that it makes a great brush holder for the traveling artist. Converting a bamboo mat into a brush holder may be as simple as just adding rubber bands.
These are self-explanatory, I think. I would never use a cloth rag that came from the studio in the kitchen, but I'm happy to use kitchen stuff in my studio as long as it does not return to the kitchen. Stuff that came from the kitchen is more probably non-toxic than the other way around!
Coffee grounds and tea leaves
For the hardcore recycler, recently used (as in same day) grounds and leaves can be reused to stain paper yellow or brown.
I use these polystyrene implements to scoop tiny amounts of Pearlex powder pigment from jars. Plus, using tiny spoons makes me feel like a giant.
I don't know why, I seem to have a natural talent for accumulating unused disposable chopsticks. I think they'll make great paper and paint scratchers, though this is not a technique I've used in a while. Scratching and scraping paint is great while painting in acrylics. The results can look pretty awesome, and for me, used to set people wondering about my technique!
These have at least 3 uses. The first is as a dropper. It can be used as a dropper as is (just needs some skillful finger work while you're picking up ink, dyes, or watercolors), or you can fold and secure one end of the straw with a clip or rubber band to make a flexible column that is sealed on one end (your basic dropper). Great for making squirts and color explosions on paper!
The second use of a straw is for the controlled and angled blowing of paint drops on your paper to form streaks. Too much of a control freak to rely on plain old gravity to make deliberate streaks in your lovely abstracts? Use a drinking straw and your own wind power!
The third use? Cut short lengths of drinking straws to fit over the bristles of your detail paint brushes. These protect delicate bristles of detail brushes when they're not in use.
If you cook, and shop at supermarkets, these are near impossible to avoid. Washed, styrofoam trays make great disposable paint palettes, and you get extra green points if you use these instead of artists' disposable palette papers!
Great for all sorts of uses. With lids that can double as small palettes, jars are great for painting outdoors and on the go. Fill with water, screw on the lid, and you're set! For those artists inclined to stay at home, these are great on the desk.
Having these on my desk gives me amusement if only because they remind me of the jars of tongue depressors doctors used to have on their desks! Good as paint scrapers or paint spoons for picking up paints from jars.
Not too common in Asian grocery stores, but you may collect these depending on your grocery shopping habits. They secure bags of bread, produce or grains from the bulk bins. With skillful twisting, they can be used to put hooks or loops on the ends of your paint brushes. These allow your brushes to be hung up to dry with their business ends pointing down - the recommended way to keep bristles in good condition.
Great as water receptacles. Suitable for water media only. Recycle after use.
The kitchen and the studio have to be my two favorite places in the home - after all, it's where the best stuff is made! It may also be the two most important places we can reduce, reuse, and recycle. This month, here's hoping you'll find some of your "new, old" studio tools from the forgotten places in your kitchen!